Recently finished reading "Dancing with Rose: finding life in the land of alzheimer's" by Lauren Kessler. She is a professional journalist who lost her own mother to Alzheimer's and even years later is mortified at how she failed to relate to her mother in the last years of her life. And so she goes to work as a minimum wage aide in an Alzheimer's care facility, not to write a sensational tell all book but to relate the day to day struggles of the aides and the residents and perhaps most of all to atone for what she sees as her own failure with her mom. I think she succeeded brilliantly on all three counts. She doesn't pull any punches about the working conditions or the lack of decent pay or benefits. Neither does she mince words about how stressful the job can be. On the other hand, she is entirely open about how attached she becomes to some of the residents and how heartbroken she is when a couple of them die.
I worked in a nursing home for 3 years before moving on to my present job in a hospital with much better pay, security, and benefits. My favorite residents back then were those who related to me on an intellectual level or those I related to on some deep emotional level. For example, there was a lady none of the other aides liked to take care of. She was combative and had a tendency to grab and pinch. Everyone called her Grandma , and I adopted the nickname. Eventually she came to recognize my voice and calmed down enough at least to be fed and showered and put to bed. Of course, one day the inevitable came. She lay dying, and I went into her room before going off evening shift. I stroked her hair and said, "Good night Grandma. Good night." I just about jumped out of my skin when I heard a voice behind me say, "Thanks for taking care of my mom." This from a man I'd never seen come to visit her. At that point, I felt more like a grandson to her than he'd been a son, and managing to mumble a you're welcome I rushed out of the room. When I came to work the next day her room was empty. Why do I remember this so vividly, and why does it make me feel sad to this day?
"Dancing with Rose" explains it more eloquently than I ever could. Buy it, borrow it from the library, or swap for it. I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.
9 months ago